By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Alaina Jaramillo does not like having her finger pricked.
The nearly 2-year-old cries, waving a bandage-wrapped finger at Mom, Chelsie, as if to say, “Look, Mommy! Would you look at what they did to me?”
But what little Alaina doesn’t know is that prick is a screening, that could help keep her safe from health problems like lead poisoning and tuberculosis, an infectious disease that’s often spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. The screening was free at the Anderson Hopewell Center’s second annual wellness and resource fair for low-income families.
“We’re just so happy we can provide these services,” said Jodi Mundhenk, Early Head Start coordinator at the center, 5325 Main St. “We want families to get the health care they need, but also connections in the community; To be aware that there are options out there.”
At this year’s fair, representatives from St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Community Hospital Anderson and more than 20 other agencies were on-hand to advise parents on everything from nutrition, to first aid, depression and dental screenings. Kids loaded their bags with free adhesive bandages, small bottles of hand sanitizer and other goodies, while their parents learned.
The fair is for families enrolled in Early Head Start, who must to meet federal poverty guidelines and either be pregnant or have a child younger than 3 to qualify. Mundhenk said the Hopewell Center is funded for 99 children and their families, which means there’s usually a waiting list. But there are always new openings as kids age out of the program.
The goal is to enhance and promote health and development via individualized support, while also strengthening their links to community resources.
“By making them aware of all these resources, we’re really trying to empower them (low-income families) so they can take control,” she said.
For example, by connecting them with Anderson Public Library, which handed out free children’s books at the fair as part of the effort to boost school readiness and literacy education.
Another focus is nutrition, Mundhenk said. With so many sugary goodies marketed to kids, it’s sometimes tough to work in all the fruits, veggies, whole grains and other foods growing bodies need. The USDA encourages children to eat well to prevent delayed physical growth and motor development; behavioral problems; deficient social skills, attention and learning; and lower IQs — sometimes by 15 points or more, in the severely malnourished kids.
“School readiness and child brain development start before birth,” Mundhenk said. “We try to help get them off to a good start so they can do well later in life.”
As far as Chelsie Jarmillo’s concerned, the Center does just that. She chairs the Early Head Start Policy Council, which is made up of parents and community members. “This is really a wonderful program,” said Jaramillo, rocking Alaina to calm her down. Her son, Isaiah, was in Early Head Start, too, until he aged out.
“It covers all these things a lot of parents don’t even know exist, and really helps them through that process,” she said. “It’s pretty great.”
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The Hopewell Center